Days of looking to be there at the right moment …

“That’s pretty much the life of a National Geographic photographer. Days of looking to be there at the right moment.” Jim Richardson

Jim’s got it right: if you want to get a particular composition, or just the right light, then it can take days of looking and days of waiting. Then you’ve got to get yourself in just the right spot at the right time with the best equipment you have – camera set-up, lens, lens filter, and tripod.

You also need to know your landscape and how it’s lit. If you stand with your back to a Karoo sunset you often have golden light washing over distant mountains. That’s something I’ve wanted to get a good photograph of for a long time. Here’s one from my last shoot.

A golden sunset at Ganora farm

Golden Sunset at Ganora

There’s a second photograph that I’ve worked on many times over the past 10 or 15 years. If you are at Ganora Farm (just outside Nieu Bethesda) and stand looking north towards Compassberg mountain then the sunset is to your left and the light bathes the cliffs and skyline. You can also get lovely colours on the clouds beyond.

The dramatic cliffs of Compassberg at sunset

Compassberg’s cliffs catching the sunset light

Just last month I managed to be there at the right moment for both of these shots. We’d had a dull, hot, overcast afternoon but an hour before sunset a nice rift appeared in the clouds way off to the west. I figured that’s pretty much where the sun would be as it set so I assembled my camera gear and headed to a good vantage point up on the road out of the farm.

One of the reasons I got the pictures I wanted was the lenses I used. It’s the first time I had taken the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm PRO lens with me. I also had the MC-14 telephoto adaptor which enabled me to zoom really close up to the subjects.

I waited for about half an hour keeping an eye out for the sun to drop below the clouds. When it did I shot a picture of the road out from the farm with Compassberg mountain beyond. I used the 12-40 mm PRO lens for this and quickly switched it for the 40-150 mm as I knew the light would change rapidly. Swivelling round so the sun was now behind me I got a couple of really nice pictures of the golden glow on the distant hills and koppies off to the east.

The golden road to Ganora Farm

Golden road at Ganora

The golden light of a Karoo sunset

Golden light at Ganora

Then I walked back over the road for the long exposure shots of the mountain with clouds behind it. These were taken on the tripod using Live Composite base settings of half a second and a second. Each shot was five minutes long – so either 600 for 300 exposures superimposed in the camera.

Sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Sunset colours over Compassberg

Late sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Late sunset colours over Compassberg

It had been a pretty intense hour but I was feeling really pleased. It was a nice walk back through the gloaming with the prospect ahead of a cold beer at the braai.

Fingo Village taxi ride: a photo merge

Two of the pictures I’ve taken in the past couple of weeks are merged here. It’s something that I experiment with every now and then and this time I’ve got an interesting result.

Take my picture across the valley, Grahamstown-Makhanda

Fingo Village taxi ride

The first picture in the merge is called Across the Valley. It’s a shot I’ve wanted for quite a while. Taken looking down Wood Street in Fingo Village your eye is drawn immediately across the valley to the leafy suburbs of Fort England and Sunnyside. The 1820 Settlers National Monument and PJ Olivier High School are perched on top of the hills beyond.

Across the valley from Wood Street, Fingo Village, Grahamstown Makhanda

Across the Valley

The second picture was one I took on the fly. I was standing on the corner of Bathurst and High Streets in the town centre taking pictures of the heritage sites when a taxi came cruising past. The conductor called out Take my Picture and so I did. Here he is in typical pose.

Take my picture, corner of Bathurst and High, Grahamstown Makhanda

Take my picture

With the photo merge I combined the two pictures together. So the image still looks across the valley but the taxi (which will take you there) is overlain on top. I use the Luminar photo editing software to achieve this affect.

I also gave the merged image a gritty analogue feel to hark back to the multiple exposures of the pre-digital age.

 

Starting off with a flash and a bang – 55 days to go to #NAF18

This month certainly started with a bang – we had a spectacular storm last night that’s given me another picture for #NAF18.

Grahamstown, Lightning, #NAF18, Metamorphosis, Night Photography

Autumn Storm over Grahamstown

I shall add it to the three night pictures in the Grahamstown Series I’ve already printed for Metamorphosis. You get such cool colours and effects in night photographs whether it’s a moon rise, car headlights or lightning. But they’re quite tricky to take. Then there’s problem of just how to print them. This time I’ve selected something a little different – Ilford Metallic Gloss.

The prints have a slight metallic sheen with rich contrasts and plenty of detail. They’ll be on sale at the exhibition and there’s a nice selection of my Grahamstown pictures over at my online portal roddythefox.co.za.

The Face of the Exhibition

You must find a dramatic image to publicise your exhibition – that’s what the #NAF18 organisers tell you. This year it was easy because Meagen gave me a photo shoot and we got some really striking images. For the photo shoot I made a set of motifs from tree ferns, branches and lightning that I projected on to her. Meagen struck some amazing poses for me: strong, beautiful and challenging all at once.

Metamorphosis #NAF18 Johan Carinus Art Centre Grahamstown

Meagen Photo Shoot for Metamorphosis

I re-inserted these new images back into the originals I’d worked from. There’s two pictures from the shoot at #NAF18. They’re called The High Priestess and Justice.  Somehow they fitted into the themes of the two Tarot cards.  The High Priestess gazes out from deep within your subconscious, rooted in the natural world.  Justice looks at the past and the present and her many faces reflect all of your past decisions. They’re  new additions to the Symmetry series I showed at last years Arts Festival.

I was extremely fortunate to have a second photo shoot – this time with Natalie who featured in last year’s exhibition – but that must wait for a another post.

 

 

More metal – 71 days to #NAF18

We collected another eight metal prints from Orms Print Room in Cape Town last week. They’re going to be showcased in Metamorphosis, my fringe exhibition at the Johan Carinus Art Centre during the National Arts Festival 2018. The four monochrome prints are pictured here. They’re unusual because they don’t have any white. Instead the brushed aluminium shines through and the grain from the metal gives a great texture.

 

Metamorphosis – 81 days until exhibition opening

Metamorphosis is my theme for this years’s exhibition on the Arts Festival Fringe at the Johan Carinus Art Centre. I’ve got 50+ images and more than 40 are new so with less than three months before opening I’m in constant communication with printers in Cape Town (Orms Print Room) and Port Elizabeth (Walker Digital).

I’m  also really excited about my online store for digital downloads. All of the images from Metamorphosis will be there in low resolution (suitable for web sites) and high resolution (suitable for print) versions. There’ll be an announcement here once it opens for business.

My popular series of Grahamstown landscapes will be a feature in the exhibition and the first batch of these prints have just arrived. I’m using different photographic paper this year:  Hahnemühle German Etching.  I really like the texture and print quality that the paper gives.  You can’t really see that in this slideshow so you’ll just have to come along to the Johan Carinus Art Centre for the full experience!  The exhibition’s open from 9am to 5pm for the duration of the Festival from 28 June to 8 July.